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Roald Dahl Outside of Willy Wonka

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Roald Dahl Outside of Willy Wonka

Katilin Lee, Staff Writer

If you’ve ever read a classic children’s book such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and The Witches, then you’re probably somewhat familiar with their author, Roald Dahl. Known for his dark fantasy literature and his creative word choice, Dahl was a British author and screenwriter of Norwegian descent. And although he wrote his first novel, James and the Giant Peach in 1961, Dahl started writing much earlier.

Dahl enjoyed traveling ever since he was a young man, going to Canada, then to East Africa to work at an oil company until World War II broke out. He was only 23 years old when he enlisted for the Royal Air Force.

He served as a pilot until his plane crashed in the Libyan desert in Sept. 1940. He got severe injuries to his head, nose, and back, and couldn’t go back to flying after he spent six months recovering in Alexandria. Instead, he was sent to Washington as an assistant air attaché to do espionage and propaganda work.

Then, in 1942, writer C.S. Forrester asked Dahl for an account of his experiences in North Africa in hopes of turning it into an article for The Saturday Evening Post. Instead of the notes Forrester expected, Dahl sent a story called The Gremlins, which was serialized in Cosmopolitan in 1943. The story was about mischievous little creatures called Gremlins who would dismantle and destroy warplanes, and it reached major success as it was published repeatedly.

Before Dahl published James and the Giant Peach, he wrote his first script for a short-run stage play, The Honeys, which starred on Broadway in 1955. Then in 1958, Dahl wrote the episode “Lamb to the Slaughter” for the T.V. show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. And even after he published his first book, Dahl co-wrote screenplays, such as You Only Live Twice in 1967 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1962). Around the time he published The BFG, Dahl published poetry for children and then edited a book on ghost stories. And beyond just creative media, Dahl also wrote three autobiographies, a cookbook, a leaflet for British railways, and a book about measles, which centered on his daughter Olivia who died from measles encephalitis.

Dahl was also an inventor. He helped invent the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, a shunt able to drain excess fluid from the brain. According to the official Roald Dahl website, he made it to help, “alleviate the head injuries endured by his son after an accident in New York.”

In 1990, Dahl published his last book, Esio Trot, before dying on Nov. 23. Two other books, The Vicar of Nibbleswicke and The Minpins, were published posthumously. Even though Dahl is no longer writing, he leaves a great impression on many people around the world that extends beyond his imaginative books.  

Image courtesy of ENTERTAINMENT.IE

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Roald Dahl Outside of Willy Wonka